Natural remedies for strengthening the heart tend to help significantly with symptoms such as arrhythmia and angina, and can also make a big difference in people with CHF. Three of the most effective remedies are CoQ10, hawthorn berries, and carnitine.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
CoQ10 has been shown to protect and strengthen the heart and lower blood pressure. CoQ10 is a vital enzyme, a catalyst to the production of energy in the mitochondria of our cells. Without it, our cells simply won’t work. Its chemical name is ubiquinone or ubiquinol—it is ubiquitous, or everywhere, where there is life. Its levels in the human body are highest in the heart and liver. When we are ill or stressed, and as we age, our bodies are less able to produce CoQ10.
According to a study done by CoQ10 expert Karl Folkers, published in the International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research, patients with a variety of cardiac disorders consistently demonstrate a blood deficiency of CoQ10. A double-blind Japanese study with 100 patients who had cardiac failure showed that only 30 mg per day of CoQ10 for two to four weeks produced a measurable improvement in symptoms. Many older people whose heart function has degenerated and who try CoQ10 report an almost immediate boost in their energy levels.
People who suffer from angina report that the pain disappears and they can exercise. In a double-blind placebo study using CoQ10 and other drugs traditionally used to treat angina, it was found that CoQ10 was far more effective in reducing or eliminating angina pain than any of the other medications. Other studies have shown that people on heart medications can greatly reduce their dosage of medicine if it is combined with CoQ10.
Statin drugs, which are being taken by millions of people to control high cholesterol, deplete the body’s stores of CoQ10. In other words, by taking a drug that’s supposed to reduce the risk of heart disease, these millions of people may actually be increasing their risk. If you have to take a statin drug, be sure to supplement with CoQ10.
This nutrient is also a valuable natural therapy for periodontal disease. Following the dosage instructions at the end of this section can have the fringe benefit of clearing up inflamed gums. Interestingly, people with chronic periodontal disease have significantly higher risk of heart disease. Some research indicates that this connection has to do with elevated inflammatory levels throughout the body, but it may also have to do with CoQ10 depletion.
In 2006 a new form of CoQ10 called ubiquinol became available. Ubiquinol is the more active and thus more bioavailable (more easily used) form of CoQ10, but it is very unstable and reverts back to ubiquinone when exposed to light and air. A Japanese company named Kaneka developed a method for stabilizing ubiquinol so it could be added to supplements. Within a year of making it available to the public, nearly every major vitamin company had incorporated some ubiquinol into its CoQ10 supplements. Although there are no formal or independently published clinical studies on ubiquinol yet, published research by Kaneka shows that ubiquinol raises CoQ10 levels in the blood eight to ten times more effectively than ubiquinone. An unpublished clinical trial in Texas with end-stage CHF patients who took ubiquinol for three months showed that it improved their cardiac function and may have extended life span.
Dosages for both forms of CoQ10 can range from 30 mg as a maintenance dose in a multivitamin to 400 mg daily of ubiquinone or 200 mg daily of ubiquinol for those with heart disease.
Hawthorn Berries (Crataegus oxyacantha)
Hawthorn berries have been used as a heart tonic for centuries and are widely used in Europe for angina and for lowering blood pressure. They are rich in bioflavonoids, which help strengthen the blood vessels. They are also a vasodilator, which increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart, lowers blood pressure, and strengthens the heart muscle. An analysis of studies on hawthorn showed that it offers significant relief from the symptoms of heart failure.
Hawthorn berries work gradually, and you may not notice a difference for a month or so. You can find hawthorn berry extract in capsule or tincture forms. Because the amounts vary widely, follow directions for use on the bottle. Some of the tinctures can be very powerful, so it is very important that you work with your doctor if you’re already on heart medicine. However, in and of themselves, hawthorn berries are nontoxic and very safe.
This amino acid is another heart-strengthening nutrient that appears to be especially useful for treating angina and CHF. You can take 500 mg twice a day, preferably between meals.
Prescription Alternatives: Hundreds of Free, Natural, Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore & Maintain Your Health, by Earl L. Mindell, R.Ph, Ph. D, & Virginia Hopkins, M.A. Published by McGraw-Hill.